250 eighth graders learned about laws and democracy at Gordon Russell.

CONTRIBUTED - Rep. Carla Piluso chats with some students from Gorden Russell Middle School. She spent the day talking to students about democracy and making laws. Rep. Carla Piluso, D-Gresham, spent a recent day at Gordon Russell Middle School speaking with eighth-grade students about government and the Constitution.

"It is highly motivating to visit with our students at every level," said Piluso, a Democrat who represents legislative District 50. "They are smart and at the same time funny. They are shy and at the same time opinionated and they listen to the world around them and are paying attention to what is around them."

Piluso, who is chairwoman of the Gresham-Barlow School Board and is a former Gresham police chief, talked about her role as a legislator, passing laws and being involved in government.

She spoke to eight classes on Friday, March 3, reaching about 250 students, noted Principal Rolland Hayden.

"She spent the whole day and it was greatly appreciated. She was able to speak to smaller groups than, say, a whole assembly," he said.

CONTRIBUTED - Piluso talks to one of the eight classes she visited, praising the students as smart and funny. Social studies teacher Eric Neiwert said the students, who are currently learning about government, "really appreciated having a real person to attach these concepts to."

He said the students were impressed with "how approachable and how kind she was. She listens really well."

After Piluso spoke, students were separated into groups and asked to create bills around concerns they had about the community, ranging from the quality of school lunches to homelessness.

In addition, Piluso walked them through a law she spearheaded advocating for women veterans.

"That made an impact," Neiwart said. "This was a real person, a person from their neighborhood" who was involved in making a real law.

Neiwert said some of the students got so interested that they are considering going to the Capitol in Salem and becoming an honorary page, which allows them to sit in on the Legislature for a day. Piluso said five students asked for applications.

And after a day with high-energy middle schoolers, Piluso joked, "I was exhausted by the end of the day and had a far greater level of appreciation of the work of teachers and staff."

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